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[3 Tools] to manage or control anxiety and depression

Hi Tomodotchi’s,

 

We hope you are all doing well in your mental health journeys. This week’s topic is a very personal topic as we will be covering the 3 main tools, we personally use to manage and control our anxiety. While these tools help us deal with our anxiety and depression, it’s not meant to be taken as medical advice. These tools helped us, but they were part of a plan to wellness set forth by our mental wellness team (psychiatrist and therapist). We hope these give you options to discuss with your wellness team and maybe they can help you manage anxiety and depression too!

Anxiety controlled us

person walking

To start, we should provide some background about us. Since a young age, we suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD. We fit the text book definition, we constantly worried about the what ifs to the point where it consumed us. We would repeat behaviors that logically made no sense. One of the earliest memories of OCD that we have is from the third grade. We used to get this intrusive thought that we had written down an embarrassing secret on a piece of paper. Any time we would walk anywhere, we would obsess with the idea that this secret had fallen out of our pocket and someone would find it. This led us to always walk, sometimes for miles, with our heads constantly looking back checking to make sure we did not drop anything.

 

In the off chance that we would see a paper on the ground, without fail, we would go pick it up to make sure nothing was written on it then put it in our pocket (just in case). Once we got home, we would fixate on the what ifs. What if we missed something? What if someone found it and we get teased or shunned?  Logically, we knew this made no sense. No such secret existed, and even if it did, we had never written a note in the first place. As a kid, we had no idea that this was anxiety; we felt like it was just a normal behavior that everyone dealt with.

It wasn’t until college that things got really bad and the true depression hit. We got to a point where the intrusive thoughts were so bad that we couldn’t even go outside anymore. We holed up and shut off from the world, alone with our irrationality. There were many times when we felt that it would be easier if we were not in this world anymore. Truly, the worst time of our life. All this to say, yes, we have had mild anxiety, severe anxiety and depression. It took us 12 long years until we finally started utilizing all 3 of these tools we are going to mention, but these 3 tools have truly changed us from surviving to thriving.

 

One more thing that we will note, Anxiety is like a pendulum. There are good times and there are bad times. In the good times, man, it feels like nothing can stop you. We almost forget what anxiety feels like or that it exists. In the past, we would throw these tools out the window in the good times. Only to come crashing and burning a few weeks later. Then when the bad times hit, we have to start over from scratch to get the baseline again. Our new very recent philosophy is that we will enjoy the good times, but we use that time to double down and practice these tools for when the bad times come. Even as recently as last week, an event that normal would cause us great anxiety came, and we somehow got through it unscathed. We were able to put to practice what we focused on in the good times and we minimized the anxiety caused by the stress event.

 

Ok, enough about us, on to why you are here!

pendulum

Medicine to manage anxiety and depression

The first tool we ever utilized here at Tomodotchi was medicine. When we were in college at our lowest point, we were finally able to see a psychiatrist. They told us that our anxiety level was 10 times the level of a normal depressed person, due to the OCD (whether this is true or not, we have nothing to compare). As soon as we sat down and described our symptoms, they recommended anti-depressants. Our first initial thought was, NO WAY! We felt the shame and stigma of relying on medicines. Our whole life we were always able to do everything through our own power. There was no way we were going to rely on medicine…

After a long discussion with the psychiatrist, we were finally convinced to take the medicine. After all, at this point we had hit rock bottom anyways, how much lower was there to go? The first few weeks on the medicine, honestly, we felt nothing. Medicine like this can take a while to get in the blood stream and take positive effect. From what we have been told, it averages 2 weeks before it takes effect. Vice versa, you can stop taking the medicine and it can take about 2 weeks before you feel the negative repercussions, remember this, because it comes back later!

Those first 2 weeks nothing changed, we were inundated with intrusive thoughts and continued isolating. We continued to be controlled by our anxiety and depression. At this point we felt validated that medicine doesn’t help and that it was all a gimmick. But we gave it the full chance and 2 weeks later…. WOW what a difference. No, our anxiety was not cured and no the intrusive thoughts were not gone. However, somehow now we were able to actually fight back. We were suddenly able to reason with ourselves and take back some semblance of normalcy. We imagine it a lot like the movie Osmosis Jones, where Drix and Ozzy were fighting the virus. In the same vein, we and our medicine pal were fighting back against the anxiety and darkness.

 

For the first time in forever, we actually felt “normal”. We felt good, and like our overall anxiety level had gone down. Honestly, at some points we felt so good that we would stop taking the medicine, thinking that we were cured. Then 2 weeks later, hard body slam back to reality, the depression and anxiety would overtake us and we realized how much the medicine was actually doing. Now as a note, if you are going to use this tool, then you absolutely need to meet with a medical professional. Medication can be dangerous if not used correctly, so absolutely consult and meet with a doctor before you even consider this tool. Sorry, always have to get that PSA out there!

Therapy to control anxiety and depression

Therapy is actually a very new tool added to our belt. Our first session was only a few months ago. For a long time we felt that the medicine and sheer will power were enough to fight the anxiety. However, after a particularly bad bout of anxiety we decided to finally give therapy a try. Honestly, we had no expectations and we had no idea what therapy could even do for us.

 

So, let’s start with what we learned therapy is not. Therapy like medicine is not a cure for anxiety. Therapy is not a quick fix and your therapist is not going to give you all the answers. Your therapist is not going to tell you what to do or make decisions for you. We know when we have anxiety, sometimes we want to pass on our responsibility, we want to let someone else decide so that we aren’t to blame if things go wrong. Your therapist is not there to be your scapegoat or let you off from doing the hard work.

 

What your therapist will do is help guide you down different thoughts. They will help you challenge your thought process to understand the reasons why you feel certain ways and what is the core of your problem causing you anxiety. They do help you process those feelings and think of different ways you can go and resolve your problems. They can challenge you to ask the tough questions of yourself and other around you. For us, most importantly, they help validate what you are feeling. Anxiety is isolating, it makes us believe the worst in ourselves. Therapists can help be an ally to fight back and prove to yourself that the anxiety is not right.

Our own therapist helped us realize the expectations we were placing on ourselves under the guise of loved ones. She asked us to have a conversation with our loved ones and have the conversation about what their expectations of us truly were. We quickly learned that we were placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves and that the other person never had those expectations. We had expectations of perfection, extreme success and constant working.

 

Once we realized that those expectations were false expectations, it was incredibly freeing. We stopped worrying what if we aren’t perfect or what if we make a mistake. Instead, we were able to shift our mindset to, as long as we’re trying our best and learning then we are meeting expectations. It was so incredibly freeing to gain this new mindset. Therapy is definitely something that can help you get to the root of your problem so you can begin to heal. The best part is, you won’t always need therapy. We have ebbs and flows, when you are doing good you can stop therapy, when a bad moment hits and you have a new anxiety, your therapist will be right there to help you again.

 

As a quick note, our therapist also helped us recognize positive and negative impacts to our mental health, read our past post to learn more.

Techniques to deal with anxiety and depression

Ok, so we talked about how medicine can help you get to a point where you can actually rationalize against anxiety, then we talked about therapy to help you deal with the root cause of the problem. The final tool that we implement, and again this is very recent, are different techniques to help get us out of the immediate feelings of anxiety and depression.

 

In the heat of the moment, when your anxiety is coming in full force, it is hard to think about anything else. Your mind goes straight to the worst case and the raw emotions make it hard to think about anything else. At this point, it is just you and your emotions so you need a tool to help reset your mind. That is where techniques come in. Again, techniques are not a cure for anxiety, they won’t stop you from never having bad thoughts again. However, they will help you snap yourself out of it, even for a second, so you can start to rationalize with yourself again.

One thing about techniques, is you need to have an open mind to use them effectively. If you aren’t willing to do the next step or to allow yourself to let them work, then techniques probably won’t help very much. Now, we will only discuss our favorite technique, but there are so many more. Just as we are all different, you should find techniques that work for you. See this post for some other ways you can manage anxiety.

 

Our favorite technique is called grounding. This is a technique that pulls you out of a moment by focusing on something else. The easiest non noticeable way of grounding is to squeeze your hand into a fist as hard as you can. As you do this, you focus on what it feels like; ask yourself, what does your muscle feel like, what do your fingers feel like, etc. Then after you can’t hold a fist anymore, you let go and ask yourself what does the relief feel like, how does your hand feel now, etc. Don’t focus on what is causing you anxiety, but allow yourself to ask these questions. Once you allow the different thoughts in, you may forget what was causing you anxiety all together. But if not, now you have allowed yourself a quick respite to allow other thoughts in. Use this time to think about the best-case scenario for your anxiety, think about the middle ground. Focus on these other thoughts as well, so you still challenge your anxiety, but now you can think about other scenarios. Guess what, at this point you should be able to rationalize that in reality, the middle ground is usually what happens and find peace in that.

Put it all together and manage your anxiety

Ultimately, these tools help us manage our anxiety. It does not cure our anxiety, as there are always new problems that arise and anxiety is part of the human condition. Also, depending on your level of anxiety, you may not need all these tools. After all, we would describe our own case as pretty severe. However, the way we view it is medicine helps reduce anxiety levels to allow yourself to be reasonable and logical, therapy helps you find the root cause of the issue and helps validate / find ways to change your mindset, and techniques help you get out of the immediate heat of the moment. Or in short, medicine gets you there and therapy and techniques keep you there.

 

Obviously, as mentioned in the beginning, don’t take medicine unless you talk to a doctor. However, these three tools are available to us all and easier than ever before with the advent of the internet. You can find doctors you can meet with online, the same with therapists, and you can always search for new techniques on google. If you use any of these tools let us know how they work for you! If you have any other tools you utilize, please comment on this post. We can only get better together. We have another post here where we also discuss managing anxiety and different ways to do so. 

 

Cheers to your health,

Your Tomodotchi

TLDR;

We utilize medicine, therapy and techniques to help us manage our anxiety. Medicine reduces our anxiety and therapy and techniques help keep us there.

Extras

For those of you who follow our Facebook, then you may know we introduced our Tomodotchi mascots the other day, see picture below. We have hidden them in 2 of the pictures in this blog, can you find them? Let us know if you find them all!

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